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Intro to Sociology. Emile Durkheim. Emile Durkheim. Born 1858; Died 1917 Born in Epinal , France Works: The Rules of Sociological Method The Division of Labor Suicide The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

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intro to sociology

Intro to Sociology

Emile Durkheim

emile durkheim
Emile Durkheim
  • Born 1858; Died 1917
  • Born in Epinal, France
  • Works:
    • The Rules of Sociological Method
    • The Division of Labor
    • Suicide
    • The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
  • Contributed to the formation of sociology as an independent, scientific discipline
sociology definitions
Sociology (Definitions)
  • Social Facts – A category of facts with characteristics “external to an individual” that exert power over a person.
  • “external to a person” means that these characteristics are transpersonal experiences—things with an basis in internal experience that are not unique in essence to an individual’s internal experience.
    • Operative Facts: legal codes, aesthetics, language

How society uses tools in order to thrive.

    • Structural Facts: demographics, geographical distribution, Urban architecture

How society organizes itself in order to thrive.

  • Society – The “collective consciousness” of a group of people
  • Sui Generis– Irreducible to component parts, “of its own kind.”
sociology method
Sociology (Method)
  • Domain: “social facts” – All research and reflection must be relative to the social causes and implications of (human) life. Everything is (must be) social.
  • Reasoning: relating social causes to social effects. (causal mechanism)
    • E.g., social estrangement is a factor in suicide.
    • Functional – relating the social fact to the social organism (as opposed to the interior psychology).
  • The most primitive forms of religion exhibit the essential features of religion that have been obscured by the “luxuries” and advancements of mature religions.
  • Since the facts are simpler, the relations between them are more apparent.
  • What happens in primitive religion is an analogy for what happens in mature religions.
epistemology knowledge
Epistemology (Knowledge)
  • Two forms of knowledge: empirical and categorical
  • Empirical – knowledge gained by observation
  • Categorical (Traditional) – Preconceived concepts by which we organize our observations
  • Categorical (Durkheim) – The representation of society within each individual’s consciousness – “collective representation” (E.g., Genetic Heritage)
  • Functionalism – the content of the categories change over time and culture, it is this same basic pattern that reveals an increasing uniformity that will eventually result in the ultimate uniformity.
  • “A religion is a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things—things set apart and forbidden—beliefs and practices which unite in one single more community…all those who adhere to them.”
  • Three Essential Elements
    • Sacred object (e.g., God, America, etc.)
    • Set of beliefs and practices
    • Moral community
  • Religion is established in moments of “collective effervescence”—points at which people are united in behavior and purpose.
    • Ecstatic psychic feelings implies a “higher” ideality
  • Ideality is projected onto an external symbol.
  • This symbol is actually a representation of society’s ideals—it is a way of society understanding itself.
  • “Religion is a society worshipping itself—it is society’s ideals and forces hypostatized.”
  • Because (a) categorical knowledge is social knowledge and (b) religion is a representation of social ideals, (1) religion is a social phenomenon; (2) all societies are intrinsically religious; and (3) religions are an important and healthy part of society.
  • Religious experiences are “real” in the sense that they do embody societal ideals. They are unreal in the sense that their content is symbolic and not descriptive or explanatory.
  • Durkheim expresses a functionalist theory of religion: religion is defined in terms of a set of processes as opposed to a set of content.
  • The increasing diversity or plurality of modern societies make it difficult or even impossible to apply Durkheim’s theory of religion outside of small, isolated groups.
  • The functionalist account defines religion too broadly in the sense that everything on this account is religious, or that there is nothing that is not potentially a religious/religion.
    • It rejects alternative or peripheral explanations of transcendence:
      • The philosophical question of the objective value of any given thing
      • The psychological question of individuality and idiosyncrasy in belief